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A HELLENISTIC MARBLE ALTAR, FROM DELOS
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A HELLENISTIC MARBLE ALTAR, FROM DELOS

CIRCA LATE 2ND/EARLY 1ST CENTURY B.C.

Details
A HELLENISTIC MARBLE ALTAR, FROM DELOS
CIRCA LATE 2ND/EARLY 1ST CENTURY B.C.
Of cylindrical form with moulding above and below, decorated with four frontally facing bulls' heads with taeniae hanging down, linked by large foliate swags of fruit, ears of corn, pine-cones ad dbunches of grapes, a rectangular recess in the top, some chips
39¼ in. (99.6 cm.) high
Provenance
Bretton Hall, Yorkshire.
Formerly in the collections of Frederick, 5th Earl of Guilford (1766-1827) and the Wentworth Beaumont family.
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Lot Essay

This imposing Greek marble altar was originally owned by Lord Guilford and displayed in his London house at 24 St. James's Place. Lord Guilford was Chancellor of the University of the Greek Ionian Islands and a member of the Dilettanti Society. After Lord Guilford's death, the house and contents, including the altar, were purchased by the Wentworth Beaumont family who subsequently removed the altar to their Yorkshire estate, Bretton Hall, near Wakefield.

The altar originally comes from the Cycladic Greek island of Delos in the Aegean. Delos grew rapidly in the mid-2nd/early 1st Century B.C. with its wealth based on commerce, being made a free port in 166 B.C. The island was also an important religious centre with its principal sanctuary of Apollo.

These altars were not only used as dedications in the sanctuaries of the gods, but also in private houses for domestic cults and for deceased family members. Cf. R. Ling, Classical Greece, Oxford, 1988, pp. 116-117 for a similar altar in situ on Delos in Serapeion C which was one of three sanctuaries established to Egyptian gods during the Hellenistic period. Also, L. Budde and R. Nichols, A Catalogue of the Greek and Roman Sculpture, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1964, pp. 41-42, nos. 71-72, for two altars from Delos of a similar type to that above.
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